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Top Sports Rivalries of All Time
Rivalries in sports are what define athletes and the spectators.
41. United States vs Soviet Union
The Cold War brought a level of excitement and patriotism to this rivalry unlike any other in sports history. The games themselves were important, but the victory was what mattered more there was a we are a superior country now feeling when either team defeated the other in hockey, weightlifting, basketball and all the other important games. Certainly, the 1980 Winter Olympics with the Do you believe in miracles? moment is the most exciting and important, but the 1972 gold medal basketball game was just as thrilling and had incredible controversy that only intensified the hatred between the two countries.
42. Los Angeles Brooklyn Dodgers vs New York San Francisco Giants
A rivalry spawned in New York transferred to the West Coast in 1958. It reached its most famous moment in 1951, when Bobby Thomson s home run beat the Dodgers to win the pennant. When the clubs fought for National League pennants in the 60s, they were also constantly fighting on the field, including the infamous episode when Juan Marichal attacked Johnny Roseboro with a bat. Giants fans loved it when Joe Morgan s homer knocked the Dodgers out on the final day in 1982 Dodgers fans loved it when their team knocked out the Giants in 1993. In terms of greatest head-to-head matchups, the East Coast edition of the Dodgers-Giants has the edge, slightly, over its West Coast counterpart.
43. Toronto Maple Leafs vs Montreal Canadiens
The Canadiens-Maple Leafs rivalry is the oldest and most storied in the NHL. Before the advent of separate conferences, they played in the Stanley Cup Finals five times, with the Maple Leafs taking three Cups at the Canadiens expense. They also claimed a third straight Cup in 1964, thanks in part to a thrilling win over Montreal in the semifinals in seven games. For a stretch, from 1956-1969, the cup was housed in either Toronto or Montreal every year but one. The debate about who was the more dominant franchise added to the rivalry as well. Since the late 1970s, the two clubs have not met in the playoffs, but because they play six times a year during the regular season, it s still hockey s best rivalry.
44. Duke Blue Devils vs North Carolina Tar Heels
College basketball s greatest rivalry. Being seven miles apart helps, but so does the image of Dean Smith or Roy Williams on one sideline and Mike Krzyzewski on the other. Throughout the last quarter-century, the ACC championship and a Final Four berth has so often been awarded to one of these teams. That gives their annual home-and-home battles an electricity that is unmatched at any other time in the college basketball regular season. There are any number of games to choose from for the greatest showdown, but one of the earliest Dean Smith-Coach K matchups was the best. With Eric Montross and Christian Laettner battling in the paint for 40 minutes, the Tar Heels upset the No. 1 Blue Devils, who would win their first-ever national championship two months later. The teams have met for a ridiculous 240 games and UNC leads 133-107.
45. Green Bay Packers vs Chicago Bears
The oldest and longest-running rivalry in the NFL is also one of the most even. The Bears and Packers have fought some of the hardest, most physical games in the NFL. But the individual match ups also help separate this rivalry from all the others. Who was the better middle linebacker Dick Butkus or Ray Nitschke? Who was the better head coach George Halas or Vince Lombardi? Which team was better The 1985 Bears or the 1960s Packers? Yet for all their history and success, they had never met in the playoffs until this season. So when they squared-off in Soldier Field with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line, it was their most important and exciting matchup ever even if the game itself wasn t as thrilling as some of their earlier clashes. This rivalry is about as close as it gets, in 190 meetings, the Bears lead 93
46. Alabama Crimson Tide vs Auburn Tigers
The Iron Bowl is not the best rivalry in college football but it s a terribly close second. There was a long gap, from 1908-1947 where they did not meet, so only 79 games have been played Alabama leads the series 43-35-1. Nevertheless, the Tigers and Tide have played some of the most memorable college football games of all time. But what makes this SEC showdown so special is the fact that whenever one of the two teams is in contention for a national title, their Iron Bowl opponent raises their game to a new level. In 2010, it was the Tide jumping out to a 24-0 lead (only to see Cam Newton dominate in the second half) when Auburn was undefeated and ranked second. A year earlier, the roles were reversed, with 7-4 Auburn holding a lead over undefeated and second-ranked Alabama until the final 90 seconds. In 1983 the Bear Bryant-less Tide came within three points of ruining the Tigers bid for a Sugar Bowl berth. A decade earlier, in the Punt Bama, Punt moment, Auburn spoiled the Tide s undefeated season. No matter what their team s record is, both Alabama and Auburn seem to always play their best football in that post-Thanksgiving Day game at Legion Field or Bryant-Denny Stadium, or Jordan-Hare Field Stadium.
47. Real Madrid vs Barcelona
In club football you don t get much bigger than this one. These two giants of Spanish football are two of the most popular teams in the world and, indeed, are two of the most dominant in football/soccer history. Traditionally, whenever Real Madrid and Barcelona met in the league, the match was titled El Clasico. Nowadays, that term is applied to almost any battle between these clubs. The politics of the 1930s and the Spanish Civil War amplified tensions between the two clubs and many see the battle as a fight between the Right (Real Madrid) and the Left (Barcelona).
48. Los Angeles Lakers vs Boston Celtics
The Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers have met in the NBA Finals 12 times, and many of the battles have been all-time classics. No two teams have ever met more often to decide their league championship in any professional sport. In addition to Bill Russell and Larry Bird, the Celtics have featured stars like John Havlicek, Sam Jones, Bob Cousy, Dave Cowens, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. On the other side of the spectrum in L.A., Jerry West and Magic Johnson have been joined by legendary names like Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Shaquille O Neal, Pau Gasol and of course Kobe Bryant. The Celtics won the first eight times the two teams met for the title, but the Lakers have won three of the last four championship match ups since.
49. Michigan vs Ohio State
When Ohio Stadium opened in 1922, Michigan spoiled the party with a 22-0 victory. The rivalry was heated in the early days as both have been long-time college football powers. But it got even hotter in 1969, when Bo Schembechler took over as Michigan s coach and upset Woody Hayes No. 1-ranked, undefeated Buckeyes. Four times in the next six years, both teams were ranked in the top five when they met. In 1970 and 1973, both were undefeated (they tied 10-10 in 73). From 1970 through 1975, Michigan entered without a loss every year. The Wolverines won just once. Ohio State was 9-0-1 in 1993, 11-0 in 1995 and 10-0 in 1996. The Buckeyes lost each time. That is rivalry. The overall series comes out to Michigan leading, 58
50. New York Yankees vs Boston Red Sox
Is Red Sox-Yankees the best rivalry in baseball history? Yes. Is it the best rivalry in sports of all-time? I think so. But because the rivalry was so one-sided from the 1920s to the late 1970s (aside from a few seasons of Ted Williams late-1940s teams), it s got to be the number one choice on this list. Of course the Red Sox sin of selling Babe Ruth to the Yankees adds an element that no other rivalry can contend with. But on the diamond, the Yankees and Red Sox have also provided some of the most dramatic and thrilling moments in baseball history. The 1949 AL pennant came down to a one-game Sox-Yanks showdown. The same was true three decades later when Bucky Dent made a name for himself. Still, it wasn t until the last 15 years that BOTH teams were consistently elite for an extended period of time. Beginning in the late 1990s, every regular season game took on a playoff feel, which multiplied exponentially in the 1999, 2003 and 2004 ALCS. The whole Evil Empire quote added some more fire, but the back-and-forth jockeying for free agents (or free-agents-to-be at the trade deadline) is what keeps the Red Sox-Yankee rivalry a 365-day-a-year spectacle. I m just glad Boston finally won themselves a few rings and ended that curse. That was getting pathetic.
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